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The burningness of love

The burningness of love

“Once on Pentecost Sunday I received the Holy Spirit in such a manner that I understood all the will of Love in all, and all the modes of this will of the heavens and of heavenly things, and all the perfection of perfect justice, and all the shortcomings of the lost; and with regard to all, I saw the will in which they then were, either of truth or of falsehood. And since then I have felt in the same way the love of all the persons I saw, in whatever degree they then were. And I have understood all the languages that are spoken in seventy-two ways. The multiplicity of all these things was hidden from me and has vanished. But that simple gazing upon him, and the burningness of Love, and the truth of his will, from that time onward have never been extinguished, and have never been silent, and have never been appeased within me.”

Hadewijch, The Complete Works (New York and Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press), p. 271.

The report of this vision from a thirteenth century Beguine mystic is at times cryptic, but this much is clear: on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit touched Hadewijch and conferred on her an understanding of the divine will, described as the will of Love, which touched all persons, saints and sinners alike. The experience left her marked forever, so that “that simple gazing upon him, and the burningness of Love, and the truth of his will, from that time onward have never been extinguished.”

Many Episcopalians may be shy about recounting a spiritual experience like this one, even when they have had one. And yet, we know that in Holy Baptism, we receive the same Spirit that Hadewijch received. For we have been “sealed by the Holy Spirit” and “marked as Christ’s own forever.” The same Pentecostal fire that burned within this holy woman now burns in our hearts, showing us the deep things of God. What do we see there, if not God’s own self, however dimly and obscurely, and the burningness of Love, which impels us, as it did our blessed Lord, to give ourselves—and, if need be, give our lives—for our neighbor.

May the fire of this love, which even now fills the heart of Christ Crucified, consume every malignancy that opposes the will of God, until Love be all in all.

Bill Carroll


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